Click here to read part 1 of my story:
I know my story tells a bit more than the linky intended, but I think it is important for new teachers to know the road is rarely flowers and sunshine, and for seasoned teachers to know that many teachers have a crazy story, maybe like them. I know the stats of how many teachers leave during the first three years of their jobs and maybe my story will help them stick to it. It gets more interesting...
Lesson 3: Sometimes Bad Things Can Lead to Good Things
During the whole mess I wrote about yesterday, I was interviewing at a school two counties away, but 20 minutes from where I was doing my night classes for grad work. I was preparing to be a full-time grad student if I did not get the position. I was so fortunate to be hired mid-year for a full time position in…kindergarten. It could not have been farther from my experience, but I was young and ready for the challenge. Yeah!
Well, the teacher I was replacing was resigning mid-year because she wanted to stay at home with her kids. Unfortunately, the class was incredibly tough and she had checked out. It was a bad situation. I did not know about any of this and the information trickled out as the weeks went by. I had 3 board member’s children, who had formed a committee to keep tabs on the new teacher with the principal. To his great credit, the principal was incredible optimistic, protective, and never let me know about it. One of the other parents who claimed she did not want to be part of the “witch hunt” shared this with me, thinking I had known.
Years later, as my students progressed and moved through the grades, I was enlightened on the true nature of my class that year. In addition to board members’ students, I had several students who had needs far beyond what I was aware of in terms of their learning and behavior. Kindergarten is the most difficult grade in my opinion, because you know that you have concerns about students, but they are still so young that sometimes needs do not come to light until they are older. Plus, I was very new, had not worked with students so young, and was just plain inexperienced. I will leave it at that. People still ask me today if I had so-and-so, and most likely, if they are asking, I did. Oh, but one good thing about the parent posse, who were frequent volunteers in my classroom, they demanded that I get an assistant – who was a godsend!
Lesson 4: It’s All in How You Play Your Cards
At the end of my first full year, I was desperately looking for a way to get out of kindergarten. It was not kindergarten itself, but rather the experience I had had – one I did not wish to repeat. I knew there were 3rd and 4th grade openings and screwed the courage to ask my administrator about moving. He thought I was the perfect kindergarten teacher. What he was really saying was, you’re young, you’re tiny, and you talk softly.
One day at a sporting event, the superintendent asked my assistant how the year was going. Well, my lovely assistant said was it was going well, but that I really would like to move to 3rd or 4th grade. Low and behold, I was asked if I wanted to move the next week. Sometimes small towns can really work in your favor! Remember to always be nice to the people who work with you and live in the community. They can help you get what you need or they have connections. Coincidentally, they also eliminated a section of kindergarten and I would have had to move anyway.
Lesson 5: Stick to It and You Will Find Your Calling
So, I moved off to third grade. At that time, all 4 fourth grade and 4 third grade teachers looped back and forth. We had a group of aids, a reading teacher, and a special ed. teacher who worked exclusively with us. I LOVED my team and the model was great. I looped from third to fourth and then went back to third. I was hit with all the state testing and somehow whatever I was doing was working. And I loved it. We lost and gained a member of our group every year, but it only made the group better and closer. I got married the first year I taught third grade and finished up my grad work that summer.
At the end of my 3rd full year, I was again presented with an opportunity for change. Now looking back, I think “Why didn’t I just leave it alone?!?” because I would probably still be teaching 3/4 at that school if I did. But, a reading position opened up and I had just finished my masters in reading. It was a Coaching/Remedial/Consultant and all around quasi-administration position. I went into it feeling like it was not the best choice.
I left my loop and chose a new teacher for my class – that hardest thing I had to do up until that point. I had to call all the parents with the principal and tell them I was leaving. It was awful. Like crying awful. Nothing like being put on the spot and answering tough questions while sitting next to your boss on speaker phone! I was also told by the super that I could not go back to the classroom. They were 2 separate tenure areas and I was causing a stir by leaving the loop. Did I mention that my principal was really interested in having me moving to this position? I am a pleaser and, even though I was not going with my gut, I made the move.
Lesson 6: Go With You Gut
I loved many things about the reading position. I loved teaching reading and kindergarten through 4th grade. I loved some parts of the quasi-admin things and we were restructuring the remedial program from the ground up with RtI as the focus. However, it caused enormous anxiety. I struggled seeing my old team and really feeling like I wasn’t part of it anymore. I struggled to guide teachers who had been teaching longer than I had been alive, I struggled convincing them that assessments and RtI were important. I struggled with having much of the instruction and training for grading state assessments on my shoulders. I struggled with writing 82 quarterly reports, some for students that I never even worked with but only consulted on. I worked with 21 teachers in 5 different grade levels and I was stretched really thin.
I worked with a wonderful teacher in the reading room and she was a great friend, but was also very relaxed. This was hard for me because I am very type A and by the book. I ended up doing all the reports for the students we co-taught because I wanted them to be done on time. The coaching model was wonderful, but doing that on top of being a main part of the RtI team and training teachers and consultant work, and still teaching, made me crazy. Can I tell you that I literally sat through the Lion King at the theatre and do not remember half of the show because I was agonizing over quarterly reports. I really think that I had an ulcer that year. My godsend that year was a lovely aid for the library. She literally brewed coffee every morning and would walk in the room to plunk it on my table as I taught. She then kept the coffee brewing all day. Some days, that it what got me to work and through the day with some piece of sanity.
What did I do next? Click here to go to Part 3!